CRIME

Former FC Barcelona president arrested in money laundering probe

Sandro Rosell detained along with Ricardo Teixera, ex-head of Brazilian Football Confederation

Spanish businessman Sandro Rosell, the president of Barcelona FC from 2010 to 2014, has been arrested in an operation targeting money laundering, with the quantity involved totaling up to €15 million, according to judicial sources. Officers with the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard on Tuesday morning searched Rosell’s home in Barcelona and other properties in the Spanish cities of Lleida and Girona, while another part of the operation was being carried out in Andorra. Five people have been arrested to date.

Barcelona's president Sandro Rosell at a news conference near the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona in 2013
Barcelona's president Sandro Rosell at a news conference near the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona in 2013ALBERT GEA / REUTERS

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The operation began in the early hours of Tuesday morning with law enforcement agencies investigating a suspected criminal organization that allegedly obtained illegal commissions for the sale of television image rights of the Brazilian national soccer team.

The organization then allegedly laundered this money in tax havens, according to police sources.

Also among the targets of the investigation is Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). Officers have also carried out raids in Brazil.

Rosell’s business dealings in Brazil have long been on the radar of the authorities

Rosell’s business dealings in Brazil have long been on the radar of authorities. He has previously been investigated in the South American country over accusations he allegedly worked with Teixeira to channel illegally obtained funds via his company Alianto. US authorities have also looked into a Rosell-brokered €160-million sponsorship deal between the CBF and sports clothing giant Nike.

The Spaniard stepped down as Barcelona FC president in January 2014 after a Spanish National High Court judge launched an investigation into a lawsuit brought against the soccer club chief for embezzlement in connection with the signing of Brazilian star striker Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior.

Previously, a complaint was also lodged against Rosell in relation to the staging of a friendly soccer match between Brazil and Portugal in 2008.

Brazilian star striker Neymar will appear in court over his signing to FC Barcelona.
Brazilian star striker Neymar will appear in court over his signing to FC Barcelona.LLUIS GENE / AFP

The links between the businessman and the Latin American soccer world were always a cause for concern at Barcelona FC, with the singing of the Argentinian Gerardo Martino as team manager in 2013 among the actions raising suspicions. 

Teixera, who took up residence in Andorra after being accused of corruption in Brazil, has also been investigated over possible corruption. In 2012, he was forced to step down from his role at the CBF after being hit with a number of accusations. He also came under the spotlight as part of the huge FBI investigation into corruption at global soccer governing body FIFA for his role in organizing the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The FBI examined the close links between Teixera and FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke, the right-hand man of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who resigned in 2015 after investigated by the US law enforcement agency.

English version by George Mills.

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